I have been asked twice now in the last few days about self denial. What does that mean to me now versus what it meant while in the meetings? In the meeting culture, self denial was heavily emphasized. It seemed to mean all the outward things for the women; it meant not doing or having certain things (like TV’s, movies, and sports). I honestly don’t know what it meant to men in the fellowship. (Not workers)
But what does the Bible say about it:
- New Living Translation
Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self–denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud,
Colossians 2:17-19 (in Context) Colossians 2 (Whole Chapter)
- New Living Translation
These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self–denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
Another Scripture that comes to mind is I Corinthians 13:3
- If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.
In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said to His disciples:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Those disciples were all men, so the outward things like hair, make-up, jewelry would not have been what Jesus was talking about. I believe it goes much deeper than that.
Yes, women can deny themselves a number of things that would enhance their beauty and femininity, but what if, at the same time, they are indulging in gossip or slander?
Denying yourself things that you would otherwise say or think….that is costly stuff. Denying yourself the opportunity to be unkind, dishonest, petty, unforgiving, judgmental, bitter, and resentful; those things have far greater impact in the world and in your own circle of influence than how you look. Putting on a professing “uniform” every morning is quick, easy and done in your own strength. Truly denying yourself some of the things mentioned above you can only do with the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. (Oh, you may be able to do them in your own strength for a brief while but it won’t last.)
Deny yourself what you want to do so that you might put the needs of another first. Self denial means; not just giving up what I don’t need, but what I do need sometimes for the sake of another. Finding out what is on God’s “to do” list for the day before I make my own.
This also ties in with my post on fasting to be seen of men. I know how I feel about it now versus what it meant while I was still in the meetings is a whole lot deeper. I feel so much more accountable to God now. He is working on my character. I could look the part of a professing woman but have an ugly heart or a dishonest heart. The only thing the Scripture says about women’s appearance is that we are to be modest. That is self explanatory.
The lifestyle of a worker required a great deal of self denial but also lent itself to a very selfish and spoiled life. I’ve wondered if that wasn’t because we as workers were going about it all wrong. To quote a friend of mine, “The message Jesus gave to the apostles was a specific message to a special people for a specific time.” I do not believe it was meant to be carried on. Jesus never said that it was. The workers lifestyle is imbalanced and the things we gave up were obvious but what was the fruit of it? Yes, we had more time with the friends by living in their homes with them but we had little real life experience to relate to them with. We didn’t know anything about marriage, raising children, living with a mortgage and other bills, rubbing shoulders with the “world” every day in a job. Living without your own personal space, without continuity, living a celibate lifestyle; all those normal things others had, it takes its toll. In my opinion, that is why workers often become very rigid in their actions and thinking, and why they leave. I also truly believe it is one of the reasons so many workers are depressed. My heart breaks to this day to think of so many of my sister worker friends who were on anti-depressants. (I mention sister workers because I knew them better.) Oh my goodness, I could go on and on about why friends and workers are often depressed.
As much as I did not like “gems” that floated around on “gem sheets”, one comes to mind. It had something to do with “majoring in the minors”. The interpretation the fellowship made of that implied towards other churches. However, now I can see it is exactly what the fellowship does in areas such as the lifestyle of the workers. Making the lifestyle the focus (again, when in reality I as a worker wasn’t keeping any of those requirements, nor were my co-laborers’) instead of Jesus Himself.
What I can truthfully say now, what God is asking me to deny myself is a lot costlier than it was as either one of the friends or as a worker. It’s a lot more personal and searching. It has to do most times with the development of my character and my integrity and how I treat my fellow man.